Illustrated Guide to Shakespeare Plays

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice focuses on one man’s revenge to destroy another. Iago, a man who feels he was wronged by Othello, sets up elaborate plans which destroy Othello’s marriage and lead to many deaths.



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Othello Summary

Iago is determined to destroy Othello, a successful Venetian general who promoted another man named Cassio to lieutenant instead of him. Roderigo is in love with a woman named Desdemona, who has already secretly married Othello. Iago agrees to help Roderigo get Othello out of the picture. Iago sends Roderigo to Desdemona’s father Brabantio, who accuses Othello of making Desdemona marry him through witchcraft. Desdemona defends Othello, and their marriage is validated before the Duke. Othello, Iago, Desdemona, Cassio, Roderigo, and Iago’s wife Emilia sail to Cyprus to fight the Turkish forces who have landed there.

Once the party arrives, they discover that the Turkish fleet was destroyed in a storm. Iago gets Cassio drunk and provokes him into a fight with Roderigo. Othello blames Cassio for the fight and strips him of his rank. Iago then sends Cassio to ask Desdemona if there is any way that she can convince her husband to reinstate him.

Emilia, Desdemona’s attendant on the trip, picks up a handkerchief that Desdemona drops. Iago takes it, knowing it will come in handy later on. He convinces Othello that something is going on between Cassio and Desdemona, and portrays himself as Othello’s only trustworthy confidante. Othello promotes Iago to lieutenant.

Iago plants the handkerchief in Cassio’s room, and tells Othello to listen while he gets Cassio to talk about the affair. In reality, he asks Cassio about his affair with a woman named Bianca, but Othello misses the name and thinks he’s talking about Desdemona. He resolves to kill Desdemona and asks Iago to kill Cassio. Iago convinces Roderigo to do it for him, and Othello proceeds to treat Desdemona horribly.

Roderigo attacks Cassio as he is leaving Bianca’s, but he is hurt; Iago (in disguise) attacks Cassio and then pretends to arrive on scene to help. Iago kills Roderigo to keep him silent, and accuses Bianca of arranging to kill Cassio. Othello confronts Desdemona about Cassio and ends up strangling her, but Emilia arrives shortly afterwards and calls for help. When Othello mentions the handkerchief as proof of Desdemona’s affair, Emilia realizes Iago’s plot and exposes him, sending Iago into a rage, killing Emilia. Othello stabs Iago but does not kill him, turning a hidden sword on himself as he is arrested for Desdemona’s murder.

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Date Published: 1604

Genre: Tragedy

Major Themes: Jealousy; prejudice; manipulation; revenge

Famous Quote: “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

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Prefer a different language?

•   (English) The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice   •   (Español) La Tragedia de Othello, el Moro de Venecia   •   (Français) La Tragédie D'Othello, le Maure de Venise   •   (Deutsch) Die Tragödie von Othello, der Moor von Venedig   •   (Italiana) La Tragedia di Otello, il Moro di Venezia   •   (Nederlands) De Tragedie van Othello, de Moor van Venetië   •   (Português) A Tragédia de Othello, o Moro de Veneza   •   (עברית) הטרגדיה של אותלו, מור של ונציה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مأساة عطيل، مور من البندقية   •   (हिन्दी) ओथेलो की त्रासदी, वेनिस के मूर   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Трагедия Отелло, Морю Венеции   •   (Dansk) Othello Tragedien, Venedigs Mørke   •   (Svenska) Tragedin av Othello, Venedigs Myra   •   (Suomi) Venetsian Maurien Othello-tragedia   •   (Norsk) Tragedien til Othello, Venezia-muren   •   (Türkçe) Othello Trajedisi, Venedik Kasabası   •   (Polski) Tragedia Othello, Marynarza Weneckiego   •   (Româna) Tragedia lui Othello, Maurul din Veneția   •   (Ceština) Tragédie Othella, Benátského Moora   •   (Slovenský) Tragédia Othella, Benátskeho Moora   •   (Magyar) Othello Tragédiája, a Velencei mór   •   (Hrvatski) Tragedija Othella, Venecije   •   (български) Трагедията на Отело, Маврите на Венеция   •   (Lietuvos) Othello Tragedija, Venecijos Jūra   •   (Slovenščina) Tragedija Othello, Beneški Venec   •   (Latvijas) Otello Traģēdija, Venēcijas Purvs   •   (eesti) Othello Tragöödia, Veneetsia maa